Ciao! Boy, are you hostesses in for a treat today! Whether it’s large or small, for family, friends, or co-workers (or all three!), every woman wants to know the key ingredients for throwing the perfect dinner party. And holding one of these soirees out of doors adds an extra sprinkle of questions to the party planning process! Photographers Jody and Zach Zorn desired to host just such a celebration this past summer as a thank you to some amazing vendors who had helped the couple bring a former, larger-scale industry dinner to life. An intimate, Italian themed al fresco meal at the Zorns’ photography studio was the goal, and after months of careful planning and preparation by the hostess, the party was had and a huge delight for all! So pour a glass of wine, savor the images below, and take note of these tips from Jody that are sure to make your next outdoor dinner party assolutamente perfetto! These gorgeous images are brought to you by (who else?!) Zorn Photography!
1) CREATE THE PERFECT SETTING
“Have lots of candles! It always makes for a magical entrance to the outdoor table, and then the glow of the candles slowly takes center stage. Using outdoor elements in the decor always seems to make any table look cohesive outside. I used simple potted plants and a terrarium my husband created. I chose a heavy farm table with natural looking chargers, mismatched chairs and kitchen towels as napkins for a true farm-to-table dinner feel. I incorporated some of my cookbooks that worked well color wise as part of the decor to bring the cooking part in again. Spice jars with different cooking elements or spices had each guest’s name written with a gold paint pen. Music is also very important, whether it’s live or recorded or even as simple as a playlist, or a Pandora station. I created a Pandora station with 60s sounding Italian music to go with the Italian inspired dishes I was cooking.”
2) PREPARE HOMEMADE CUISINE
“The more you do from scratch really makes guests feel appreciated. I home-made charcuterie (a 2-3 month process!) just for this event to show these colleagues they are worth all of that time and effort. I also prepared each dish from scratch, including handmade ravioli. I realize many don’t know how, or think they don’t have the time, to create charcuterie or pasta, but there are many simple and even make-ahead options even the novice can make from scratch. Just like the peach caprese 1st course I did…no cooking required! I turn to Food & Wine Magazine online for a lot of recipes, too. The recipes always have helpful notes: if it’s something you can make ahead, if it’s vegetarian, etc… and they suggest wine pairings for most of their recipes, too!”
3) INCLUDE SOME EXTRA SPECIAL TOUCHES
“I displayed the charcuterie on a framed piece of artwork featuring Leonardo da Vinci sketches to bring in the Italian theme of the evening. I used an old book and coffee stained paper to print the charcuterie menu to look like it was a page of the book. On this menu and the drink menu, I used some humor which reflected my personality and also made the dinner party feel less ‘stuffy.’ Providing wine pairings for each course also gave the meal a polished feel, and having all of the glassware preset provided guests with a sense of excitement and anticipation, wondering ‘what’s next’ throughout the entire meal.”